Magazine
Latest Issue

Immortal maths

Beware split infinitudes. Numbers can kill!

By Jim Holt   March 2001

How big is a killion? That, in case you didn’t know, is a legendary number so enormous that the mere apprehension of it is fatal to humans. It stands to reason that such a number exists. Humans are finite; numbers go on forever; eventually numbers must become lethal in their sheer immensity.

But how do we come to know truly huge numbers? One way is by naming them. The first really impressive number that most of us encounter as children is one million. Now, a million is no killion. It is easily domesticated, as Maria Drew, a housewife from Iowa,…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to letters@prospect-magazine.co.uk

More From Prospect